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Hello,  I have a bit of a mystery.  I have a scrap of paper that lines up the Hunter family that immigrated to Halton, Ontario, Canada from Bushmills, NI. I have been able to source and validate all of the people listed on this little piece of paper  through Canada records, except for "Aunt Peggy who was left behind in Kerry". However, I have not found actual records in Ireland (except for one, below!).

 It says "Grandfather" was born in County Kerry (which I have not been able to validate or find), then moved the family to Bushmills.

My line goes through Alexander, who would have been born around 1785ish in  Ireland.  I have a document in Canada saying that he was a linen weaver, and that he taught his son James the same trade in NI.  I cannot find record of his wife. His children were Neil, James, and Dennis, all born in Ireland.

Neil, son of Alexander, would have been born around 1817 in Ireland according to Canada census. He married an Elizabeth Harris.  I have not found a marriage record for them.  I have their children, Elizabeth, Christina, Margaret, Mary, Sarah Jane and Frank all born in Ontario, Canada.

James, son of Alexander, born around 1811, married Giney/Jane/Jennie McMullen/McMillen.  I have record of their third son Alexander's baptism from the Parish of Ramoan in 1840.  THIS IS THE ONLY RECORD I HAVE FOUND ON THE FAMILY IN NORTHERN IRELAND. Their older sons Neil and Dennis would have been born in Ireland as well.  Their other children Dennis, Martin, Charles and John were all born in Halton County, Ontario, Canada. 

Dennis Hunter was born around 1821 according to Canada census' in Ireland.  He married a Scottish woman, Helen McKenzie, in Canada.  All of their children were born in Canada - Annie, Catherine, Alexander, Margaret Jane, John, James Vincent*, Mary, Neil, Ellen, Dennis, Johanna, Harriet and Christina.  This is my line*. 

Alexander's brother was James Hunter (born around 1788 Bushmills) married Nancy Anderson. Their daughters Margaret "Mary" (1827) and Catherine (1832) were born in County Antrim. Their other children James, Isabella, ELizabeth, Neil and Rachel were all born in Halton County, Ontario, Canada. 

"Cousin" Daniel Hunter (born 1798) married Anna Stewart.  His oldest, James Daniel Hunter was born in County Antrim in 1841 (taken from death certificate.) Daughter Ann was also born in Ireland according to Canada Census. His other children, Frances, Catherine, Margaret, Mary, and Charlotte were all born in Canada.

I am struggling to find other records for these Hunters in Ireland.  I had thought because they were Catholic I might be able to find records, as it seems most other Hunters in the area were Presbyterian or CoI. Any help would be greatly appreciated.  Please see the attached slip of paper, which, although it is accurate with people names and families, I am unable to find record of them in Ireland.  I do realize that it is too early for civil registration.  I had hoped maybe to find some parish records or land records. 

Thank you!  -Jill Hunter Rumbarger


Jill Hunter Rumbarger

Thursday 1st Jul 2021, 03:07PM

Message Board Replies

  • Jill,

    Regarding the weaving trade, pretty well all agricultural labourers in the Co Antrim area did a bit of weaving, normally in the winter months, when there wasn’t a lot of farm work to be done. The weaving was done at home with portable hand powered looms such as are still used in the Outer Hebrides to make Harris Tweed. They could be dismantled and stored when not required and were portable if the family moved.

    Ramoan RC baptism & marriage records only start in 1838 so if that’s the parish where the family lived, there will be no record of any baptisms or marriages before that year. That may be why you are struggling to find anything about them.

    The 1803 agricultural census of Ramoan lists 5 Hunter households. Heads of household were: John who lived at Ballycastle Quay, Neal in Drumawillin, Archibald in Drumeeny, John in Kilcreg and Alexander in Townparks (Fort). You can find the census on Bill McAfee’s site:

    The 1833 tithe applotment records list 4 Hunter farms in Ramoan parish:

    The tithes only listed people with land (ie mainly farmers) so if your family were labourers/weavers they won’t be included. The family in Drumeeny look to have been Church of Ireland (judging by the 1901 census). Can’t say what denomination the others were. Labourers are notorious difficult to trace because they don’t appear in many land records and because they tended to move about a bit to follow the available work. They tended to live below officialdom’s radar a lot of the time, or at least it may seem so.

    Ramoan is a different parish to Bushmills. Bushmills is in Ballywillin parish. Their RC records don’t start till 1844 for baptisms and 1848 for marriages.

    Outside the big cities, few RC parishes in Ireland have records before about 1825, and so this general lack of baptism and marriage records is fairly common. There aren’t a lot of other records for the early 1800s and so researching the Hunters may prove fairly hard going.


    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Thursday 1st Jul 2021, 05:31PM
  • Elwyn,

    Thank you very much for your response.  I had not been aware of Bill Mac Cafee's sight before now - this is a great help.  There is a possibility that my Alexander may be the Alexander in Townparks (Fork). And my Neal in Drumawillin could be the Neil I am looking for. I will try to follow up on these.  I also did not know that Bushmills is in Ballywillin parish.  Up until this point I have researched in County Tyrone, so County Antrim names are new for me.   Again, a huge help.  I am confident in the baptism at Ramoan. I also saw a lot of McCmullans (the wife/ mom's family) in that parish.  Is it true that a man would usually get married in the woman's church? 

    I have another question that you might be able to answer. hank you for the input on weaving. Three brothers and a cousin all went with their families over to Canada in the mid to early 1800's, all around the same time, and their fathers followed soon after. Would agricultural laborers be able to afford to immigrate, or would you think that they would have had small farms that they would sell? It seems like it would be difficult to bring 4-5 people (families) all at the same time financially? 

    Again, thank you!

    Jill Hunter Rumbarger

    Saturday 3rd Jul 2021, 09:19PM
  • Jill,

    Yes, it is correct that tradition was to marry in the bride’s church. So that often means a marriage and subsequent children’s baptisms are in different parishes or different churches within the same parish.

    An agricultural labourer was generally a different occupation to a farmer, and they normally wouldn’t have a farm to sell.  A farmer normally had a lease, and general security of tenure, and if he emigrated he could sell the farm. (What he was selling was the unused portion of the lease plus the crops, stock, seed, tools etc on the farm).  A farm labourer usually lived on a small cottage on the farm. Often without a lease, and with no security of tenure, an arrangement called “at will”. He could pay his rent in cash but often it was by an agreed number of days work on the farm, after which he was free to take whatever other work was available. And in the winter he could weave. The lack of tenure sounds unsettling – and presumably was at times – but it suited some because it left them free to move at short notice to follow available work. The labourer would have a few perches of land close to the cottage to grow vegetables (mainly potatoes since you can get more potatoes to the acre than any other crop. Plus they are low maintenance and generally grow very well in Irish soil. Save when the blight is about obviously.). 40 perches to a rood, and 4 roods to an acre. So a perch is a very small plot of land.

    You did get some small farmers who were sort of half way between labourers and proper farmers. These were called Cottars or Cottiers and had a few acres. Often they too had little security of tenure and so the farm wasn't worth so much if they sold up.

    Labourers in Antrim and Ulster generally were often a little better off than the rest of Ireland because of the weaving income. (Irish linen was mostly made in Ulster). It was a cash product in a society that mostly relied on barter. The linen was sold at local markets and the cash helped alleviate starvation during the famine, and could also be used towards things like a fare to north America.

    A labourer taking his family to Canada often got a bit of financial help by various methods. One was through an indenture arrangement (an employer in Canada assisting with the cost in return for an agreed number of years work) or by relatives who had gone before sending them some money. Some also got there by stepped migration. So typically they went to Glasgow or England (where there were lots of new jobs from the industrial revolution) and saved up a bit of money, which eventually paid for the fare to north America.

    Ireland has very few natural resources (no oil, coal, iron ore etc) and so did not benefit from the industrial revolution in the 1800s, the way Scotland, England, the US, Canada & Australia did, which created hundreds of thousands of comparatively well-paid new jobs in new industries (coal mining, steel making, railways, ship building etc). So that was a big pull factor. There had also been a huge population explosion in Ireland going up from about 3 million people in 1750 to 8 million in 1830. There simply weren’t jobs for all those people. In much of Ireland the only employment was subsistence farming topped up in Ulster and one or two other areas with a bit of linen weaving. Mechanisation of agriculture and more efficient farming practices also reduced the need for farm labourers all through the 1800s.  Many had little choice but to leave.




    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Sunday 4th Jul 2021, 10:43AM

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